Hooniverse Asks- Do You Have a Fuel-up Ritual? (Pump Week)


Many fire departments advocate that the bi-annual clock change – springing forward and falling back – makes for a good opportunity to also check the batteries in your home’s smoke detectors. Likewise, in ye olden days it was pretty much a given that stopping into a filling station was also a good time to check things like tire pressure, oil level and to top off your radiator. Back then, a lot of stations had attendants who would assist you or undertake the tasks themselves, hence earning the name Service Station.

For the most part those days are long gone – yes Oregon, I see you sitting there all smug and self-satisfied – and in fact most cars today don’t need so frequent a mechanical inspection as did their predecessors in years past. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t still check things like how much air is in your car’s tires, or whether the engine might just be a quart low. After all, not everyone is blessed to have at home an air compressor or. . . you know, paper towels.  

So, today’s question – as part of the amazing Pump Week – is whether you still ascribe to the old school notion of making a fill up an opportunity to preflight your car or truck. Do you have a fuel-up ritual?

Image: Pelican Parts

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55 responses to “Hooniverse Asks- Do You Have a Fuel-up Ritual? (Pump Week)”

  1. muthalovin Avatar

    Usually I give the vehicle a walk-around, and clean the windshield. Super exciting stuff.

    1. FuzzyPlushroom Avatar

      Likewise. I'm no detailing fanatic, so a squeegeeing and wipedown with some of those blue paper towels on all the glass is about it, if that. On my old 745T, I'd check the oil instead, because the car was a complete beater and I couldn't find a satisfactory way to align the crush washers on the oil line to the turbo, so it burned a quart every thousand miles or so. Everything gets a walk-around, though, if only to make sure the tires don't look low.

  2. Maxichamp Avatar

    On road trips of over 1,000 miles, I always get at least one bag of Funyuns at the gas station.

    1. I Think Not Avatar
      I Think Not

      Food rituals ftw.
      On any road trip that requires driving for a significant portion of the day, I get a Snickers ice cream bar at every gas fill up. Since the road-trippin' Odyssey does ~400 miles between fill-ups, it isn't exactly pigging out, but that is the only time I eat Snickers ice cream bars.
      Last road trip from here (KC) to GA, two of my stops didn't have them. I was actually livid and my wife had to talk me down. I didn't realize how important that Snickers was to me until it wasn't available — weird. And no, a standard Snickers just doesn't cut it as a substitute.

    2. JayP2112 Avatar

      Beef jerky and MtnDew.

    3. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

      Something funny about the thought of eating Funyons in a Phaeton. . . .

      1. Maxichamp Avatar

        Klassy with a K, no?

        1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

          I shall think of you, now, every time I eat Bugles in my Bentley.

  3. JayP2112 Avatar

    In the old days- check the oil, check for leaks, maybe adjust the timing if I felt it was a little off (British roadster).
    Today- I'm lucky to check the oil between oil changes (Ford Pickup).

  4. P161911 Avatar

    Nope. Might was the windshield or back window if it is really gunky. New cars don't need frequent checks. Old cars that I have driven would probably require me to get dirty to check anything. I try not to get dirty and greasy when I am out and about, at home in my garage/driveway is a different story.

  5. OA5599 Avatar

    No. Gas stations used to have air and water at each island, and oil for purchase on at least one of the islands. It was one-stop shopping.
    Now most stations have the air and water in a coin-operated station in a corner of the property–it is broken about as often as it works. Oil is inside, where you have to wait in line behind some customer who can't decide which scratch-off ticket to buy, while quizzing a clerk who can't be understood through the bulletproof glass.
    I don't object to paying a premium for convenience, but I do not like to pay for inconvenience. I currently check my air at home (filling up from a real compressor, if necessary), and add water there, too. I buy oil in quantity when it goes on sale, and add that, when necessary, in my own driveway, too.
    I forgot I do have a ritual. As mentioned yesterday, I check the displays on all the nearby pumps to see how little gas the last cheapskate pumped. At one station near my house, it isn't unusual to find four out of six pumps are at $15 or less.

    1. Devin Avatar

      Man, I suddenly feel grateful for my gas station. No bullet proof glass, easily understood cashiers, free air.

  6. I Think Not Avatar
    I Think Not

    Seeing that my DD hails from 1980, I still do regular checks of oil and coolant, but with a 10 gallon tank, I can save the checks for every other stop.

  7. smalleyxb122 Avatar

    My fueling ritual is to fill the tank and reset the trip odometer, and maybe clean out whatever detritus may have accumulated in the cup holder. It would certainly be a good time to check the tires and oil, but I’d be back to my current infrequent schedule pretty quickly. It wouldn’t take many times of the fluids checking out fine before complacency set back in, and I stop checking them at fueling stops. I check my oil and tires on car washing days. I check coolant and brake fluid annually, and/or before any long trip.

  8. Alff Avatar

    I have one car that burns a lot of oil and is prone to mechanical failures. That one always gets a look under the hood at fill ups.

  9. LTDScott Avatar

    Most times it's just fill 'er up and go, with an occasional squeegee job of the front and back windshields on longer trips.
    The only exception to this is if I'm towing my race car with my truck. My truck burns a bit of oil, so I double check that and add some if necessary, and then do a walk around and check hold down straps, etc.

  10. $kaycog Avatar

    I use this time to check my hair and makeup in rear view mirror.

    1. OA5599 Avatar

      I thought that's what traffic lights were for.

      1. $kaycog Avatar

        Then too.

    2. dukeisduke Avatar

      Woo hoo!

  11. calzonegolem Avatar

    I always calculate my mpg at fill ups. I should probably pop the hood and look at oil and crap to.

    1. Alff Avatar

      You have to crap every time you buy fuel? Is that some kind of Pavlovian response?

      1. calzonegolem Avatar

        Where do you think all this biodiesel comes from?

  12. rennsport964 Avatar

    If you really think Oregon 'attendants' are actually helpful, you haven't been in the state in, like, forever.

  13. dukeisduke Avatar

    Can I have her check my oil?

    1. dr zero Avatar
      dr zero

      But she won't rub your dipstick clean afterwards.

      1. dukeisduke Avatar


  14. dukeisduke Avatar

    I don't have much of a ritual, but since I got my Tacoma, I text all my fill-ups to Fuelly, so I can track my mileage.

  15. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

    Why yes, I’ve got a fill-up ritual. It goes something like this:
    1—Remove gas cap.
    2—Insert my credit or debit card.
    3—Remove the credit or debit card quickly.
    4—Press "1" for debit.
    5—Type in my pin, then press enter.
    6—Put nozzle into the tank while I wait, please, for approval.
    7—Curse the damned pump and its cheap-ass malfunctioning lexan bubble number keys.
    8—Wait an extraordinarily long time for the transaction to cancel.
    9—Repeat Steps 2-5, more slowly this time.
    10—Select 87 octane.
    11—Position myself to avoid getting hosed with petrol if the auto-shutoff doesn’t work*.
    12—Fill, and enjoy the little wisps of gasoline vapor that the California-mandated Vapor Recovery System missed**. Wait for the filler nozzle to automatically stop.
    —12 alternate—Fill, and enjoy the little wisps of gasoline vapor that the California-mandated Vapor Recovery System missed**. Scream with rage and frustration and sheer frickin' terror as daydreaming and a malfunctioning gas pump lead to one side of me being very wet, and very very flammable. Extort $5 from station manager for the spilled gallon by threatening to self-immolate and then sue for millions. Realize later, after washing expensive motorcycle jacket THIRTY ONE TIMES to get the smell out, that $5 was Not Enough.
    13—Replace nozzle.
    14—Replace gas cap
    15—Screw you, Mr. Gas Pump. No I don’t want a receipt.
    Sometimes I can save some time by skipping Steps 7-9. But only when I’m wide awake.
    *This has happened twice, once resulting in me being soaked with at least a gallon of flame juice.
    **Skip this step if there’s any hint of ethanol in the air.

  16. Devin Avatar

    I buy a drink. The car is getting 40 liters, I think I deserve 600ml.

    1. dukeisduke Avatar

      It gets a 40, and you get a fotie:
      <img src="http://i461.photobucket.com/albums/qq339/steerpike213/olde_english.jpg"&gt;

  17. Number_Six Avatar

    RX-8 ownership creates its own mandatory petrol station rituals:
    1) Pull into station wondering how Mazda got away with producing a car that's powered by a jet of raw fuel shot out the exhaust.
    2) Hope that this particular station carries 5W20.
    3) Fill up and resolve to make more trips that are down hill only.
    4) Drive to a shop that carries 5W20.

    1. frankthecat Avatar

      driving with my friend who owns an FC RX-7 is fun when, especially when it comes to fillups.
      people give him weird looks when he goes inside to pay, and comes out with a bottle of 2-stroke oil, which he then dumps into the gas tank.
      (the metering oil pump started leaking for the umpteenth time, so he just deleted it and runs premix instead.)

      1. dukeisduke Avatar

        What does that do to the catalyst? Or does it still have one?

        1. frankthecat Avatar

          he deleted it. no emissions in NY if your car is pre-OBDII.

    2. Alff Avatar

      I, too, am beholden to the magical properties of 5W20 as the tolerances in the Alfa's engine can be seemingly gauged with a tape measure. Although it runs well, with little visual indication of burning oil, I still go through a quart well before reaching 1000 miles. The thicker lube burns off a bit slower, at the expense of a couple MPGs and probably some precious HPs.
      Because I use so much oil, I run Wal-Mart's fine Super Tech brand, topped off twice weekly from a 5 quart bottle I keep in the garage.

      1. frankthecat Avatar

        99% of the oil usage problems on the Alfa v6 (which I'm assuming you have) is because of the valve guide design Alfa Romeo used. Aftermarket ones to cure the oil usage do exist.

        1. Alff Avatar

          Nope, mine's a 2.0 (Nord), a reportedly low mileage rebuild. I'm going to run this one until it dies, at which point I'll likely rebuild the spare engine in the garage.

  18. Preludacris Avatar

    I like to shake my fist at the sky, especially in summer when gas is over $1.35 / L. Summer also means cleaning the windshield, as the bugs come out and it doesn't rain every day.

    1. Devin Avatar

      The bugs remind me of a trip I took to Calgary. I went to a restaurant and a man saw the front of my car, which was green in spite of being painted white, thanks to the bugs.
      "Holy shit, where did you come from?" he asked.
      "Southeast Sask," I answered.
      "I'm not going to go there."

  19. BobWellington Avatar

    I fill up the tank, and while waiting I report fuel prices to GasBuddy, risking cell phone-gas tank explosions. After filling up, I write down the trip odometer for the tank and the trip computer's MPG to compare to the manually calculated MPG and then report it to Fuelly.com.

  20. frankthecat Avatar

    1. stick debit card in machine; hope it isn't denied.
    2. struggle with lock with the gas cap in order to get it off
    3. press 87, put nozzle into the filler, and proceed to pump gas
    4. cry when the bill quickly goes over $40
    5. hit the no button when asked for the receipt with extreme prejudice (I don't want to be reminded that I just spent $70 on gas.)
    6. look for windshield squeegee thing to get the thick layer of pollen/dirt/salt (depends on season) off of the windshield and rear window
    7. pop the hood to make sure none of the vital fluids are leaking; close hood, ignoring the scary rust on the driver strut tower.
    8. give dirty look to person giving me dirty look because I'm taking too long for their rushed life and leave

  21. Batshitbox Avatar

    Disaster Preparedness Man, here! I went through the SF Fire Dept.'s NERT training (called CERT otherwheres) around the time Hurricane Sandy knocked NYC into the stone age. It affected the way I manage my gasoline supply.
    I keep a 5 gallon can full at the house, ostensibly in case of The Big One but usually some gets used for motorcycles. I don't like to let Steve The Unremarkable White Pickup get below 1/2 a tank (that's still about 15 gallons!) so when the needle points to the sky I pour the 5 gallon can into the tank and toddle off to the station to fill them both back up.

  22. Neen85 Avatar

    My ritual is to smile and be courteous to the station attendant and somehow make their day more enjoyable.
    That's gotta be a pretty thankless job.

    1. Devin Avatar

      The cashier at the station I usually get gas from actually won an "Employee of the Year" award from the local Chamber of Commerce.
      So I guess it's not always thankless.

  23. jeepjeff Avatar

    Let's see.
    I pre-pay with credit, fill all the way up, wash the windshield if it needs it, and then, you guys are going to love this, I unlock my glove box, and pull out my spiral bound paper log book. I take the pencil out of the spring binding, open the notebook, carefully flip to the last page with any entries and write down the mileage, gallons of fuel and price. With the pencil. On paper. I often then take a moment to calculate the mileage and then write it down. I'll also usually scan up the page to see when the last oil change was so I can do a quick estimate of how much longer to the next change (I've got about 500mi left before the next one).
    After this, I stuff the receipt in my pocket and drive off. Hopefully I remember to give the receipt to my wife later.
    (I am finally getting with the 21st century for maintenance tracking with my Jeep. Kind of. I setup a bug tracker for it. I can track maintenance issues, repair planning, progress and complications. It doesn't do strict scheduling yet, but there are milestones and priorities and whatnot.)

    1. dead_elvis Avatar

      I keep my fancy paper notebook in the driver's door map pocket, and use whichever writin' stick I can find floating around the center console. Too much other crap in the glove box.
      I don't usually bother calculating MPG on the spot, but check my trip odometer before resetting it to zero & see if I'm about at my usual miles/tank.

      1. jeepjeff Avatar

        I would do that, but I live in an area that's bad for smash-n-grabs (read: not the super rich part of town; see yesterday's Hooniverse Asks answer). If I want to minimize the chance of my top getting cut, my interior has to either be spotless, or look like I am a homeless hoarder with a dog poop fixation.
        Thus, an exceptionally neat and clean interior, and the only things in the glove box are the kit I need to have in the car, and nothing more. Random crap gets thrown in whatever bag I'm carrying with me.

        1. dead_elvis Avatar

          I'm sure that a Jeep of any vintage w/canvas top has a much greater chance of incurring a break-in than a less-than-pristine '87 Volvo 244 with a passenger footwell full of trash. Plus, I'm a decent part of Seattle, and all of my neighbors' cars present much more appealing targets. Same goes for my typical work travels.
          When I worked in Oakland, different story.

          1. jeepjeff Avatar

            Actually, I've gotten knifed one time, and my wife's Civic (which is garaged) has gotten its window smashed once, so it's even. When I lived in Seattle, I didn't bother with making sure the car was spotless all the time, but now that I'm in Oakland…

  24. SSurfer321 Avatar

    Filling 26 gallons on my F150 takes a while. I usually bring a magazine to read after I wash the glass and empty the trash from the door pockets.

  25. joshuman Avatar

    Since my commute is only 7 miles and my wife's commute is close to 20, she ends up getting the gas more often than not. She claims I set this up this way. Really though, I can make it home with only a gallon or two in the tank so why fill up? Sure, sure, then we trade cars because I need to haul the kids that day and she ends up getting gas.
    When I do fill up on a road trip I might check the oil. It is more likely that I will spend 20 minutes shuttling small humans to a stinky bathroom that they leave more stinky. Why do my kids love pooping in public toilets? I have no idea.

  26. nutzforautos Avatar

    If a long road trip, I hit the head, wash my face and hands, get a cool (or hot, depending on season) drink, look at the tires, toss out trash and make sure I've got more good music loaded.
    If its my daily routine and I need gas, I pull into the station, curse the absolute largest proliferation of landscape maintenance trucks that fill up the tanks on every piece of equipment and extra cans while tossing empty cans of guava nectar at the trash cans (and miss) and just try to find an open pump..gas up and get the hell out of Dodge.

  27. MattC Avatar

    Almost always, I clean the windshield and then either take alcohol wipes or paper towels to wipe the wipers. (alcohol wipes will actually keep the wiper blades pliable). I do a walk around to check the tires, open the hood, check the fluids. Yes, I am a bit OCD when it comes to clean windshields. Knowing that is the first step….

  28. gomerpig Avatar

    While fueling my kids have come to expect me to run around the car, alternately popping up in front of their windows, scaring them, making faces, and contorting/smearing my face on the glass.

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